A BY-ELECTION is expected to be called after a senior Liberal Democrat resigned from South Lakeland District Council.

Hilary Stephenson, of Windermere, is stepping down from the authority after her husband Jo was elected deputy leader of Cumbria County Council.

Mrs Stephenson said it was not possible for them both to continue their local government careers and decided to resign in order to support her husband politically and domestically.

She became acting leader of SLDC in March 2012, following the death of Brendan Jameson, and was his deputy in 2011-12.

Mrs Stephenson was also chairman of the Lakes Administration Committee.

Political colleagues paid tribute to her six years of service but Conservative opponents questioned her attendance at council meetings.

Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron said: “Balancing family life and serving your community is incredibly hard and puts lots of strain on people and their families.

“I understand Hilary's decision and I want to thank her for her work in the council, but more importantly for her work in our community.”

SLDC leader Peter Thornton said Mrs Stephenson helped put the council closer to residents.

Ben Berry, Conservative councillor for the Windermere Applethwaite and Troutbeck ward, said: “A lot of hard work goes into being a councillor and I’m sure this wasn’t an easy decision to make.

“I would like to thank Hilary for her time and for letting the people of Windermere Bowness North have another say in who represents them on SLDC.”